Why Gayle King Ate a Cheeseburger Before SI Swimsuit Cover Shoot Despite Body Insecurities (Exclusive)

Gayle King showed up as her authentic self for her Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover shoot.

The 69-year-old CBS Mornings co-host made her debut in the iconic magazine for the 60th anniversary and says that despite any body insecurities, she didn’t go on a crazy diet to prepare for her big moment.

King told PEOPLE that the entire SI Swimsuit team, including editor-in-chief MJ Day, helped her to feel confident, comfortable and powerful leading up to the cover.

“I said to MJ, ‘God, now I’m going to have to start starving myself,’ and she said, ‘Absolutely do not do that. We don’t want you to change anything that you’re doing,’” the journalist recalled. “I said, ‘Really? I don’t have to starve myself?’ and she said, ‘Please, we want you to do exactly what you’re doing.’ I said, ‘Well, is cottage cheese good on thighs?’ She goes, ‘Yes, Gayle. Actually, it is,’ because I was very worried about that.”

Thanks to Day’s advice and cheerleading, King enjoyed one of her favorite foods the day before the shoot.

Gayle King Covers the 2024 ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit ‘ Issue. Yu Tsai /SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

“I did have a cheeseburger,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite things. But [MJ] said, ‘Gayle, go for it. Do what you normally do.’ And that’s what I did.”

King described the photoshoot as a “great experience,” noting that the crew “delivered” on her request for “tasteful cleavage.”

“There were a couple bathing suits that they pulled out. I said, ‘I ain’t wearing that. I ain’t wearing that,’” she recalled. “It was either a two-piece with a high cut or… I said, ‘I ain’t doing that.’ And even when people say, well, we could just try it. Nope. I don’t even want to try it… I was always on board with tasteful cleavage, I call it… I wanted tasteful cleavage, and they delivered on all of that.”

Gayle King Covers the 2024 ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit ‘ Issue. Yu Tsai /SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

On Tuesday, May 14, King was surprised with her cover spot reveal during a live on-air segment of CBS Mornings. Fellow SI models Hunter McGrady and Kate Upton — who also have solo covers — handed King her issue. (Chrissy Teigen also stars on a solo cover.)

“Ahhh! I’m on the cover,” King exclaimed. “They told me I was just going to be on the inside! It’s not a dummy cover? This is going to be on the newsstands? Oh my God! Oh my God!”

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“I’m floating, I’m floating, I can’t believe it,” she said, adding that “never in my wildest dreams” did she think she would be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

In addition to the four colo covers, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit launched three additional collectible covers to celebrate its 60th Anniversary Legends shoot featuring 52 of the magazine’s past and present icons including Brooklyn Decker, Christie Brinkley, Kate Love, Leyna Bloom, Lily Aldridge, Martha Stewart, Maye Musk, Molly Sims, Paulina Porizkova, Tyra Banks and Winnie Harlow.

The 2024 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is on newsstands May 17.

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